This time of year I tend to write about gratitude. We are approaching Thanksgiving, the most ritualized day of thanks in our country. That is always a reminder of giving thanks. November also marks the birthdays of both of my parents as well as the days that they each died. One of the things that I loved about them was how organized they were, and boy, they packaged this one quite tidily! Needless-to-say, November is a heart-opening month for me and one in which gratitude comes into the forefront in a big way.
Gratitude is definitely a practice, and much has been written about the components of the practice of gratitude: focusing on what you have; shifting your perception to the opportunity when unexpected events occur, such as being stuck in traffic; creating gratitude rituals at mealtime, bedtime, and challenging times; verbalizing gratitude within your family; and especially modeling gratitude for your children.
In defining the practice of gratitude, we don’t often discuss one important component – the necessity to stop blaming other people. We will not be able to truly experience gratitude as long as we hold others responsible for:
· Our feelings – “You made me mad!”
· The results that we get – “If my boss were not so strict, I would still have a job.”
· The state of our lives – “I am just unlucky.” “I react the way that I do because I am a Taurus [an Italian, a southerner, a New Yorker].”
The result of extinguishing blame is stepping into personal responsibility, which can be truly joyful. There is a lightness and freedom which gives rise to greater creativity and flexibility in your life and in your relationships. Here are some tips on how to achieve this!
Assume that others have a positive intention for you.
This, too, is a practice. Find the positive intention, even if at first it is a tiny speck. If your daughter is sassy, her positive intention might be for you to step into your authority as a parent. She is assisting you in becoming a better leader. If your spouse doesn’t hug or kiss you as much as you would like, their positive intention might be for you to become more assertive in asking for what you want or for you to discover where you could develop being more physically affectionate with them.
Monitor your tone of voice.
Our tone of voice is the verbal expression of a feeling. You may not even be aware of the feeling; however, others respond to your tone over the actual words that you use. If you snap at your co-worker with an angry tone, “I will have the report done by five,” they will feel and respond to the angry tone over recognizing that you will complete the task on time. Tone is a big indicator of blame, so begin to notice your tone, looking inward for solutions. Check out where you may be pressuring yourself or where you may not have allotted the time needed to complete your work serenely. In the previous example about a sassy comment from your daughter – friend, spouse, stranger, or colleague – their tone is an indicator of what is going on with them. Here is where you can raise your level of empathy.
Work to stop pressuring and judging other people and yourself.
We humans are judgement machines. Pam Dunn, CEO of Your Infinite Life Training & Coaching Company, suggests that we judge the beauty in others (and ourselves) and have compassion for the shortcomings. If you find yourself harshly or negatively judging someone, identify at least three things that you like or enjoy about them.
In putting these three suggestions into practice, allow yourself time. Notice small improvements. Take baby steps.
To dive deep, attend Freedom to Be: An Embracing Life Experience.